Ahmadiyya Community — [Annette Brooke in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:06 pm on 20th October 2010.

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Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Labour, Scunthorpe 3:06 pm, 20th October 2010

I will contribute briefly to the debate, because most of the points have already been very well made by other hon. Members. I represent Scunthorpe county constituency. Picking up the point that my hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh made in initiating the debate, prejudice is unfortunately something that we must live and work with in all our communities and get the better of through tolerance.

A few years ago, an Ahmadi community came to Scunthorpe and applied for planning permission for a mosque. That drew huge objections from the local community. However, the planning application was perfectly correct and went through. The mosque was built and those who lived in the community got on with their lives. A few months after the mosque had been established and opened, the neighbour who had led the series of objections knocked on the door of the mosque. They said to the person who answered the door, "I just wanted to apologise for having led that process of objection because you have been fantastic neighbours. You contribute to the community and we are proud to have you as our neighbour."

That little story demonstrates the way in which prejudice is often overcome by people living together and becoming more knowledgeable about each other. The sadness of the situation in Pakistan is that that does not appear to be the case. I agree with the comments already made: whatever the British Government can do in working with the Pakistani authorities to try to address the concerns about intolerance and violence towards the Ahmadi community in Pakistan would be very welcome. We must be ever-vigilant in this country to ensure that our tradition of religious tolerance is protected and celebrated. We must also ensure that the incidents that we have sadly heard about this afternoon and that have been reported more recently in the press do not increase. We must ensure that such incidents lessen, so that there is an increased growth in tolerance. Thank you for letting me contribute to the debate, Mrs Brooke.